By Nathan Ham
It was a good feeling for both the staff at the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce and the Avery County Chamber of Commerce being able to see a pair of events find success this summer despite COVID-19.
The Blowing Rock Chamber held its first Art in the Park of 2020 while the Avery County Chamber was able to host the Fine Art and Master Crafts Festival on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Both events took place with face-covering and social distancing requirements for guests, vendors, and artists.
“Following the COVID-19 measures, we had no opposition whatsoever. It was a great weekend with great weather,” said Avery County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Melynda Pepple. “We sat out some tables for people to eat and we never saw any group come in that was not being safe. We had large tables and sanitation dispensers on each table so they got used regularly.”
Pepple said that the chamber coordinated with Sugar Mountain, Avery County, and the Toe River Health Department to make sure all proper protocols were being followed to help make the event a big success.
“We wanted to be sure to distance our vendor placement so we lowered the number of vendors allowed to safely spread out our vendors. The vendors were then rearranging their tents so they were safe. Some put their tables all around so the buyer could go around outside their tent and didn’t actually have to come into the tent. We never had the issue of any gathering of more than 10 people,” Pepple said.
Overall, the Avery County Fine Art and Master Crafts Festival was a much-needed weekend of interacting safely outdoors and a weekend of vendors being able to sell their products.
“We were so pleased. We had steady crowds coming from Friday afternoon through the whole festival. They enjoyed shopping, going and riding the chair lift and some were even there for the extreme biking,” said Pepple. “We had a good variety of different crafts and gifts to offer and there was plenty of parking for guests and vendors. Some vendors said they did better at this show than they had ever done in the past. Many vendors had not been at a show since February and this is their livelihood.”
In Blowing Rock, the first successful Art in the Park of 2020 also saw a lot of patience and cooperation following face-covering and social distancing guidelines.
“Overall we think the day went very well. Visitors were willing to wear their masks and follow the one-way shopping paths that we had. We really didn’t have any problems enforcing that,” said Suzy Barker, the Event and Communication Specialist for the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce. “We had some of the “Show Your Love” masks from AppHealthCare and we were giving those out to visitors as they entered. We were thankful that the health department was able to share some of those with us, they were a really big hit. We had either chamber staff or volunteers posted at each entrance from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. making sure guests were following the one-way pathways and asking guests to wear masks if they did not already have them on.”
Barker briefly detailed some of the steps that the chamber went through to receive approval to host the event.
“We reached out to the governor directly and had someone present our plan to him and from there it went through legal departments to NCDHHS and through Jennifer Greene here at the health department. We also presented our plan to the local town council.”
Overall, Barker said that the chamber received a lot of good feedback from artists and thought both artists and guests had a really good day.
“We are hopeful that considering things went well, we will be able to host the August 15 show without any problems,” she added.
The second and final Avery County Fine Art and Master Crafts Festival is scheduled for August 14-16 happening once again at Sugar Mountain Resort.
Pictures from Blowing Rock’s Art in the Park on Saturday:
Pictures From Avery Chamber Fine Arts Festival Held Friday and Saturday: